Bartender perfects the blind tasting at The Homestead 

click to enlarge Josh Bluh, sober for 24 years, is a bartending veteran whose mastery of mixology has been noted by local publications. “I must be doing something right,” he says. - BETH LABERGE/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Beth LaBerge/Special to the S.F. Examiner
  • Josh Bluh, sober for 24 years, is a bartending veteran whose mastery of mixology has been noted by local publications. “I must be doing something right,” he says.

Burgundy and gold complement lush earth tones and vintage style in the bar’s warm interior. Robust wood, padded leather surfaces, diffused lighting and friendly chatter contribute to a comforting ambience that prevents the bar’s framed portraits of buxom, naked ladies from seeming inappropriate. Veteran bartender Josh Bluh has been a fixture at Homestead since film producer Raub Shapiro and actor Rio Hackford opened the Mission district bar seven years ago. Born in Connecticut and raised in Massachusetts, Bluh began his bartending career at a nightclub in Oxford, England, and his long résumé includes numerous San Francisco locations, such as the Orbit Room, Armadillo, Club Deluxe, 330 Ritch, Doc’s Clock and DNA Lounge. An experienced scooter mechanic, Bluh spends his free time restoring his Triumph Bonneville, carving up twisty roads with his souped-up Vespa and playing rock ’n’ roll.

How do you feel about the term “mixologist”?

Just don’t call me “barkeep” and I’m happy. And don’t wave your hand at me when I know you’re there. If a customer wants to experiment and try new things, I’m all for it. If I have the ingredients, I’ll make it, but I’m not trying to be pretentious. I’m not here to revolutionize bartending; I’m here to make my customers happy.

In addition to cocktails, Homestead is known for its extensive rye selection, yes?

We have a pretty healthy selection of whiskeys — single malts, Irish whiskeys, the full gamut. It’s not uncommon for me to serve a low-brow Pabst Blue Ribbon or Olympia alongside a $15 shot of whiskey.

Isn’t it dangerous and terrifying to ride motorcycles and scooters around Bay Area drivers?

My mom called me recently because a friend of hers in his 70s died while riding his Vincent Black Shadow. She said, “That could happen to you.” I told her if I can be 70 and riding a Vincent Black Shadow when I go, well, that’s not a bad way to go.

You recently celebrated 24 years of sobriety. Is it a challenge to work in a bar or to make great cocktails when you don’t drink?

I’ve never tasted any drink I’ve ever made. But back when I worked at the Orbit Room, I got written up by a few local magazines for the best-tasting cocktails, so I must be doing something right. I like working at Homestead because it’s homey and unpretentious. If I was a drinker, it’s a place where I’d drink.

Is it true that Homestead is homey to the point of being dog-friendly? Yes, we welcome dogs and we have dog biscuits to give away.

Do you ever get troublemakers in the bar?

No, we’re considerably less likely to get riffraff because we’re off the beaten path. Our crowd varies from mature people during happy hour to younger people later in the evening, but we don’t have many problems.

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